Editorial: Normalized racism has no place in Naugatuck

Britney Amankwah, Senior Editor

Nelson Mandela once said, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” 

The heinous, racist comments made by one of the students at Naugatuck High School have shed light on a deeper issue in the community. Racism is extremely prevalent all around the United States and sadly, not even Naugatuck can escape that. Racist incidents are often swept underneath the rug and whitewashed by those who do not recognize their privilege. 

Even now, so many people excuse their own words and behaviors because they do not understand exactly what racism is. This creates and enforces a system of normalized racism simply because people are not taking time to educate themselves on racism. 

Many students have experienced the aforementioned normalized racism and they feel like they can’t speak out against the negative treatment so they stay silent. The silence sends the message that it’s okay and it’s not.

“When I had first joined the track team in 8th grade…I had worn the hijab during that time and dressed differently, athletic-wear-wise, unlike other teammates who were wearing shorts and short sleeves- as a hijabi, I tried to cover my skin, and make sure to wear loose-fitting clothing. I was a long jumper and high jumper … and whenever we were practicing I would always try my best and give it my all. We would practice at the high school track field, where teams from NHS would be there as well. However, I was always traumatized practicing in their facilities because there were specific students, who, when I would go practice a long jump, they’d create ways to say that I’m practicing for ‘mission to bomb this place up.’ So, for instance, when I would jump into the sandpit, I would hear students mimicking bomb noises and worse. I would be so insecure and just hate going up to practice, because everyone would either judge or laugh at me, or gain in on creating bomb noises. After the trauma from such instances, I could not bear being around such people. I stopped playing track, and any sport. Why? Because the facilities were filled with people making “edgy jokes” like that. Even when competing against other schools, I would get the same backlash. Such instances have built up (instances during and outside of school) where I then stopped wearing the hijab,” said Mumthanu Emilah, a senior at Naugatuck High School. 

So many people claim that they are not racist and that racist acts do not exist and it’s simply not true. If you don’t believe that racism is as alive as ever, it’s because you do not experience it on a daily basis and that is on you – you must seek to educate yourself.

“Race doesn’t really exist for you because it has never been a barrier. Black folks don’t have that choice,” said Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah

The daughter of the Police Chief and Associate Principal said many blatantly racist words to a peer two years ago and during the weekend he decided to post them. The whole community is shocked, angry, and overall disappointed. In the Police Chief and Associate Principal’s statement to the press, they said that they did not raise their daughter to say these things and that she grew up in a loving family. So where exactly did she learn this disgusting and foul language? 

Implicit bias refers to attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious way, making them difficult to control. Since the girl’s parents are in positions of power that directly involve interactions with people of color on a daily basis, their implicit biases can significantly impact their jobs and the way they respond to issues. 

In no way am I trying to deflect that the teenage girl was the one in the wrong. No one forced her to say these things, however, she must have thought it was okay to say them.

The young boy who released the evidence of the Police Chief and Associate Principal’s daughter saying these things two years later was also in the wrong. He did not think it was such a big deal when he heard her saying these things, but he decided to post the screenshots and hurt her when it was convenient for him. 

Why did he wait so long? What was his response to her when she said these things? She obviously felt comfortable enough to say these things to him because she thought there wouldn’t be any repercussions. 

In this incident, so many people are in the wrong and it’s because of the racist culture that this town has allowed for years, such as not taking time in classrooms to talk about the extremely prevalent racism that we always see, hearing people use derogatory terms and not saying anything, the lack of African-American teachers and so much more.

As a community, it is our responsibility to shift the narrative and make anyone with the same racist beliefs uncomfortable. We need to send the message that there is zero-tolerance for racism anywhere. 

From the elementary level, children should be taught to respect their classmates and treat them with kindness regardless of the color of their skin. The children should know that racial disparities do exist, but they do not have to contribute to them. The young children can grow up to be allies who challenge the racist beliefs of parents and advocate for better treatment. As for children of color, they deserve to grow up being comfortable in their skin. 

 

“I definitely feel as though it starts young, so trying to create a diverse curriculum with regards to history. If we have increased and required humanities classes, as well as learning about people’s cultures, and honoring others traditions, rather than whitewashing students through honoring all these white old men who people claim are the ONLY ones who have impacted history— it would increase people’s mindset towards others, and open a broader mentality on how to treat others in a good manner, instead of being uneducated and ignorant,” said Mumthanu Emilah, a senior at Naugatuck High School. 

The protests and discussions held at Naugatuck High School and on the green are the first steps; admitting that there is a serious problem. From here, students of color and residents of Naugatuck are demanding a change.